Whole Foods caught in GMO marketing deception, false advertising - here's the proof
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor
(NaturalNews) A bombshell investigative video just released by Infowars.com has exposed what can only be called false and misleading advertising by Whole Foods. It all began when InfoWars reporters Aaron Dykes and Melissa Melton visited Whole Foods last week to try to find out what customers thought about Whole Foods stores selling so many unlabeled genetically modified foods. That fact was recently admitted by Whole Foods in its own blog post.
As you can see in the video, some customers were shocked to discover that Whole Foods sells GMOs in their store. The majority of Whole Foods customers, it turned out, had no idea the company was selling GMO.
While talking with customers on camera, Aaron Dykes and Melissa Melton were approached by a Whole Foods executive named Libba Letton. She handles investor relations with Whole Foods, and she's also in charge of food safety. In an on-camera interview, she admitted that Whole Foods stores do sell unlabeled GMOs, but her justification for that was that stores everywhere are selling unlabeled GMOs.
As she stated on camera (see video, below):
"Unless a store is all organic, every store in the country sells unlabeled genetically modified [foods]." - Libba Letton, Whole Foods Market Inc.
On the issue of GMOs, then, Whole Foods is no better than Safeway, or Kroger or even Wal-Mart.
But then Libba said something that will no doubt haunt her and the entire Whole Foods executive team for years to come:
"I don't think that Whole Foods does anything to try and make people think that we don't have food with GMOs in them," she said on camera.
"NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER!"
Libba's statement is, as you'll see below, a blatant deception. Because as the Infowars video shows, Aaron and Melissa located a Whole Foods store in Austin with a giant logo emblazed on the side of the store. As you can see in the photo below, the logo declares: NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER.
So how can Whole Foods claim "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER" when even the company's own top executives admit its stores are knowingly selling artificially engineered, genetically altered ingredients?
The answer, of course, is that Whole Foods is engaged in false advertising and misrepresentation.
...the crime or tort of publishing, broadcasting, or otherwise publicly distributing an advertisement that contains an untrue, misleading, or deceptive representation or statement which was made knowingly or recklessly and with the intent to promote the sale of property, goods, or services to the public.
A question, then: Is Whole Foods making untrue, misleading or deceptive statements with the intent to promote the sale of goods to the public?
Absolutely. Without question.
The claim emblazed on the front of the Whole Foods stores, as proven in this Infowars video, says, "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER." And yet the company openly admits to selling an entire array products in its stores which contain artificially-modified ingredients such as GM corn.
So how are artificially modified grains not artificial? It doesn't add up. The marketing claim is false.
GMOs are artificial
You might wonder, "What's the definition of artificial?"
Here it is from Dictionary.com:
Artificial: made by human skill; produced by humans (opposed to natural)
And what, you might ask, is the definition of GMO?
Genetically modified organism: an organism or microorganism whose genetic material has been altered by means of genetic engineering.
"Altering" the DNA of an organism is, by definition, artificial (i.e. not natural). "Engineering" the DNA of seed is accomplished by human skill, hence it is "artificial" in the same vein as "artificial color" or "artificial flavor."
GMOs are, of course, blatantly artificial. No one can argue with a straight face that GMOs are "natural." The very definition of the term "modified" (in the context of GMOs) means modified by humans to create something that nature did not create on its own. Nature does not cross-pollinate humans, insects and plants, for example. But human genetic engineers do!
So Whole Foods' claim of "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER" has no basis in fact. It is marketing deception, pure and simple. False advertising. Blatantly misleading. That Whole Foods' own food safety executive says, on camera, that "I don't think that Whole Foods does anything to try and make people think that we don't have food with GMOs in them" is pure bull. It's the kind of statement you might expect to hear from a Monsanto spokesperson, or from the TSA claiming "our radiation scanners are SAFE!"
What is the purpose of this deceptive marketing, you might ask? To trick customers, of course, into falsely believing Whole Foods sells nothing artificial.
No wonder so many customers and even Whole Foods employees are convinced that Whole Foods sells no GMO! This was revealed in a recent Organic Spies video that was banned by YouTube because it dared to engage in actual investigative journalism.
Whole Foods carries out false and misleading marketing
The claim about "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER" is part of a grand bait-and-switch scheme of consumer deception carried out by Whole Foods. Publicly, Whole Foods runs advertising and uses corporate messages that claim it sells absolutely nothing artificial, but once you're inside the store, a huge number of products on the shelves contain not only GMOs but also hidden forms of MSG, too. Just check the labels of foods sold by Whole Foods, and you'll see masses of products made with yeast extract and torula yeast -- both are hidden forms of MSG.
1) We carefully evaluate each and every product we sell.
2) We feature foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.
3) We are passionate about great tasting food and the pleasure of sharing it with others.
4) We are committed to foods that are fresh, wholesome and safe to eat.
5) We seek out and promote organically grown foods.
6) We provide food and nutritional products that support health and well-being.
If point #1 is true, then Whole Foods "carefully evaluates" products containing GMOs and then accepts them into the store anyway! The company is fully aware that it sells GMO ingredients, but doesn't seem to think this is a problem, even when GMOs are not labeled on its foods, thereby deceiving customers . How is this anything resembling honesty?
On point #4, the store says it is "committed" to foods that are "safe to eat." Is the company not aware of the recent French research showing rats fed a lifetime of GM corn developed massive, horrifying cancer tumors?
Here's a picture of the rats, released by the French research team, showing the results of rats fed a lifetime of Monsanto's GM corn:
Importantly, that's the same Monsanto GM corn found in many products sold by Whole Foods!
If Whole Foods is committed to safe food, why is it still selling unlabeled GMOs throughout all its stores, especially when those same GMOs are seen as so dangerous around the world that they've been banned in numerous countries already?
Point #6 claims the company provides products that "support health and well-being." And that's true. Whole Foods does sell many high-quality nutritional products and certified organic food items. But that's not all they sell. They also sell products made largely with Monsanto's genetically modified corn and other GMOs. To say "we sell healthy products" while simultaneously selling products containing an unlabeled ingredient widely suspected of causing cancer is a kind of market sleight of hand. It's an effort to say here, watch what we're doing over here with organics but pay no attention to all the GMOs we're selling.
To put a giant logo on the side of the store claiming "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER" while secretly selling unlabeled GMOs all across the store is nothing less than deceptive, misleading marketing. If Whole Foods were to be totally honest with customers, it would need to add point #7:
7) We sell unlabeled GMOs and we have no intention of ever telling you about them. When you shop at Whole Foods, it's sort of like a nutritional mine field. Good luck, customers, because you're on your own!
From a culture of hippies to a corporate culture of lying
What really concerns me about Whole Foods and its false advertising is not merely the false advertising itself but that Whole Foods marketing executives think nothing of flatly lying right out in the open about GMOs. They apparently think their customers are so uninformed that they won't ever find out about all the GMOs sold there.
The Whole Foods investor relations executive, Libba Letton, says that GMOs are found everywhere, but only when pressed on the issue in front of a camera. Is that seriously her excuse for why Whole Foods sells GMOs, too? Because everyone else does? Really?
This argument is, once again, based on deception because all the other grocery stores across the country don't slap claims on the sides of their stores that say, "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER." Only Whole Foods makes such a bold claim on the side of its building. And the claim is not merely false, it is a claim made for the purpose of deceiving customers into purchasing something that isn't what they thought it was.
The claim is also knowingly untrue. This is a key element in court cases involving consumer fraud, by the way. Generally speaking, for a statement to be considered fraud, it must falsely state a material fact while also being known to be false by the person or entity making the claim. In addition, there must be intent on the part of the party committing fraud to deceive the consumer. In the case of Whole Foods, all three of the following conditions are true:
1) The statement "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER" is a false statement of material fact.
2) Whole Foods executives are fully aware that this statement is false, as admitted by CEO John Mackey and others.
3) The false statement is made for the purpose of deceiving consumers into believing Whole Foods sells no artificial ingredients when, in fact, it does.
Furthermore, it is a simple matter for consumers who might be engaged in a lawsuit against Whole Foods to prove that they relied on this claim as source of information from which they made their purchasing decisions at Whole Foods. This adds weight to any claim of fraud.
As a result, there may be a case for a nationwide class action lawsuit against Whole Foods by consumers who were duped into thinking the stores do not sell GMOs. It will be interesting to see if such a lawsuit unfolds in the months ahead.
It will also be fascinating to see if Whole Foods continues to try to defend its lie about GMOs, or if it instead makes far-reaching changes to its marketing claims and labeling in an effort to actually tell the truth instead of deceiving customers about GMO.
Whole Foods CEO caught red handed in another online deception
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, of course, has a history of unethical deception. Back in 2007, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
For about eight years until last August, the company confirms, Mr. Mackey posted numerous messages on Yahoo Finance stock forums as Rahodeb. It's an anagram of Deborah, Mr. Mackey's wife's name. Rahodeb cheered Whole Foods' financial results, trumpeted his gains on the stock and bashed Wild Oats. Rahodeb even defended Mr. Mackey's haircut when another user poked fun at a photo in the annual report. "I like Mackey's haircut," Rahodeb said. "I think he looks cute!"
Mr. Mackey's online alter ego came to light in a document made public late Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission in its lawsuit seeking to block the Wild Oats takeover on antitrust grounds. Submitted under seal when the suit was filed in June, the filing included a quotation from the Yahoo site. An FTC footnote said, "As here, Mr. Mackey often posted to Internet sites pseudonymously, often using the name Rahodeb."
When this information came to light, instead of admitting wrongdoing, John Mackey claimed the FTC released the information "to embarrass both me and Whole Foods." Oh, right, because it's the FTC's fault that Mackey was trying to bash his competition using a fake username in an online finance message board, leading up to Whole Foods trying to purchase Wild Oats.
Mackey even used his fake blogger name to -- get this -- admire himself! "While I'm not a 'Mackey groupie,' I do admire what the man has accomplished," he wrote about himself. (Seriously.)
As the WSJ also reports:
Rahodeb [John Mackey] filed his last post on the Yahoo message board. He said he had lost a bet with "hubris12000" about Whole Foods' stock performance, and the bet's terms required that he quit posting. He blamed the whims of the stock market for a 40% decline in the company's shares.
As Techdirt.com adds, "He even made predictions about the company's stock price, putting out extremely high estimates for its performance. It's not clear that what he did was necessarily illegal, but his posting seems unethical and highly foolish, at the very least. If nothing else, the company's stockholders should wonder about what the boss is doing with his time."
The greatest corporate lies of all time
With its "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER" claim, Whole Foods now joins the Hall of Fame of the greatest corporate lies of all time.
Other corporate lies in the Hall of Fame include:
"Better Living Through Chemistry" - DuPont, 1935 - 1982
"DDT is safe to use around humans" - Monsanto, 1944
"Nicotine is not addictive" - Big Tobacco executives, 1994
"Corexit is safe for aquatic life" - British Petroleum, 2010
"NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER" - Whole Foods, 2012
You have to wonder: How is Whole Foods going to try to argue its way out of this monumental lie? Given that the company has already openly admitted to selling GMOs in its stores, it must now argue one of the following:
1) That GMOs are somehow not artificial -- an argument as absurd as claiming that DDT is "natural," too, and maybe Whole Foods should sell DDT in all its foods and offer a new beverage called Agent Orange Smoothie.
2) That the "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER" claim somehow doesn't apply to the products it sells inside its stores. This, too, is patently absurd. The claim is emblazed on the side of the store, unmistakably visible to everyone who enters the store, and it exists for the purpose of claiming that the products inside the store contain nothing artificial. The sign obviously refers to items for sale inside the store.
For Whole Foods to claim "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER" and then sell GMOs inside its store is the logical equivalent of a store claiming "NO PESTICIDES, EVER" but then selling masses of pesticide-laden foods in its store. The claim is a lie. It is deception. And it may even be the undoing of this company.
Are we witnessing the fall of Whole Foods?
When I first began covering the Organic Spies video and the Whole Foods GMO fiasco, I had no idea how deep the culture of deception really went inside this company. Knowing that I know now, about how the CEO knowingly deceives people online, how the company knowingly makes false marketing claims, and how it sells masses of genetically modified ingredients in the products on its shelves without bothering to label them, I'm beginning to think we're actually witnessing the opening chapter of the implosion of Whole Foods.
I believe that once Whole Foods customers become fully informed of the fact that Whole Foods is selling foods containing Monsanto's genetically modified corn, many of them will stop shopping there altogether.
Whole Foods exists only because of the trust of its customers. Its customers are its greatest asset! And when that trust is revealed to have been betrayed, Whole Foods has nothing but empty buildings, angry ex-customers and tens of millions of dollars worth of food products marching toward an expiration date.
You can't force people to shop at Whole Foods, obviously. They do so voluntarily. And this voluntary action is based entirely on a level of trust that now appears to have been betrayed.
That's why I also think there's a good chance we will see a class action lawsuit formed against Whole Foods, and that such a lawsuit could involve billions of dollars worth of groceries people bought from Whole Foods, completely unaware they were buying GMOs.
How much money have you spent at Whole Foods? I've spent thousands of dollars there, for sure. Maybe tens of thousands. Years ago when I shopped there frequently, I had no idea Whole Foods was selling GMOs, either. Like many of you, I was deceived by Whole Foods, and because of that deception I unknowingly purchased products there that contained genetically modified organisms.
How many other customers have been tricked by Whole Foods into purchasing -- and consuming! -- GMOs?
Whole Foods, Half Truths
The bottom line on this comes down to a simple question: If they're selling whole foods, why can't they tell the whole truth about them?
Is the company's new slogan: Whole Foods, Half Truths?
Why all the deception? Why not tell the truth? Why not come clean with customers?
That answers shouldn't be all that surprising: Selling GMO foods is highly profitable. In fact, processed foods made with GMOs are far more profitable than organic produce, for example, on which profit margins are very thin. I wouldn't be surprised if something like 35% of Whole Foods profits come from selling products containing genetically modified ingredients.
To ditch GMOs now would clobber the corporation's profits, and therefore also its share price. And as you well know, public companies are routinely far more interested in keeping their share prices high than they are in serving the human interests of their customers.
Whole Foods probably thinks it's going to make more money by continuing to sell GMOs, even while falsely claiming "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL, EVER" on its stores. But this may be a gross miscalculation. Because if Whole Foods doesn't come clean, it's customers are going to find out the truth about the situation sooner or later and Whole Foods may go down in history as the once-trusted grocer that betrayed its customers and subsequently lost huge market share.
Mark my words: What appears today on NaturalNews.com becomes common knowledge in 1 - 3 years. What we're writing about GMOs in 2012 will be widely known among health food consumers by 2013 - 2015.
That's why if Whole Foods doesn't get behind Proposition 37 with some serious financial support, I suspect it's going to be seen as allying with Monsanto, DuPont and Nestle rather than defending the interests of its own consumers.
Why I believe Whole Foods may have already sold us out
Frankly, I believe Whole Foods may already be aligned with Monsanto. I suspect Whole Foods has long since sold out and actually has NO intention of labeling its products with their GMO content. Based on the behavior I've seen from this company and some (but not all of) its executives, I believe Whole Foods has turned to evil... joined the Dark Side, so to speak. And instead of telling the truth, it is engaged in a pattern of spin and excuse-making to try to deflect any blame from itself.
The one executive at Whole Foods who I think is honestly against all this GMO nonsense is co-president Walter Robb, an advocate of "conscious capitalism." I suspect that, in his heart, Walter Robb knows GMOs are wrong and destructive, and he'd like to see Whole Foods get out of the business of GMOs altogether. But he's fighting against a corporate culture that's a lot more interested in profit than in actually doing good in the world. Shareholders demand profits, after all, not integrity.
The core of so-called "conscious capitalism" is, of course, honest communication between a corporation and its customers. On that point, Whole Foods has slipped... badly. The company can no longer be described as practicing conscious capitalism. It has devolved into a for-profit scheme of withholding information from customers while trying to confuse people with bait-and-switch marketing tactics.
My guess is that if Whole Foods somehow finds the courage to do the right thing on Proposition 37 or GMO labeling, Walter Robb will be the internal force that makes it happen, even against the wishes of John Mackey who seems to be driven primarily by greed and profit.
I invite you to email co-president Walter Robb and encourage him, in polite terms, to help save Whole Foods in three ways:
1) Make a large donation to Proposition 37 in California. 2) Announce a timeline requirement for all foods sold through Whole Foods to be labeled with their GMO content. 3) Proactively educate Whole Foods employees and customers about the reality of genetically modified foods being sold throughout the stores.
I encourage you to contact her and let her know what you think about Whole Foods deceiving consumers with the "NOTHING ARTIFICIAL" claim while selling GMOs in the store.
If you do email her, please be polite but firm. If you are a Whole Foods customer, you may wish to let her know that fact. Please do not be unprofessional or threatening in your emails, even if you are angry at Whole Foods. Remember that if you email Whole Foods, they will have your email address. You may wish to use a secondary email address for this purpose.
October 16th is "take your GMOs back to Whole Foods" day
Next Tuesday, October 16th, join others in returning any GMO food items to Whole Foods and demanding a refund.
Which food items contain GMO? Almost everything made with corn that isn't certified organic.
Class action lawsuit against Whole Foods?
If any law firms are interested in pursuing a class action lawsuit against Whole Foods for its misleading advertising and false claims, NaturalNews may be interested in helping you organize such an effort.
Call or email us if you wish to pursue this issue. We can help spread the word about a class action lawsuit and even distribute your phone number where people who believe they have been victimized by blatantly misleading marketing claims can call and file their complaints.
Sources for this story include: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118418782959963745.html http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19718742/ns/business-us_business/t/whole-foods-ceos-anonymous-online-life
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